Author: Chris Bowen
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2453-5
Publisher: Outskirts

 Click Here To Purchase Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom

Winner of the prestigious Teacher of the Year for Los Angeles County- a county that employs over 80,000 teachers, Chris Bowen has penned an impressive memoir with his Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom. According to Bowen, “To work with children is to see, to catch, these small untraceable moments. It is to watch a child pause, cocoon, and re-emerge as a whole new entity.”   

Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom offers readers a unique and humane perspective with its wonderful collection of vignettes of Bowen’s personal experiences with students that have graced his classrooms over twelve years.  His essays validate his powers as a writer with a talent for empathy and sensitivity that persuasively show up in his exacting eye for revealing moods and emotions capturing the essence of youngsters growing up. At times his observations are quite telling and even painful, as he doesn’t shy away from portraying honest family difficulties.

One particular touching essay is about the little girl who couldn’t eat with a fork due to a genetic bone disorder and from which her mother likewise suffered. The youngster needed a one-on-one school aide, however, her mother omitted to fill out the proper forms requesting help and thus the little girl was denied this service. It was later revealed that the mother had no idea that she had to formally request aid and no one bothered to tell her. In another tale we learn about the little boy who didn’t want to go out for Halloween because his mom thought that since his family couldn’t afford to give out candy that year, he really shouldn’t be asking for candy from other people. When Bowen asked the little boy what he thought of not going out for Halloween, the answer was that “it wouldn’t be fair.” And as Bowen remarks, “I looked into Jorge’s good-natured face and can’t help but think of so many other children who might need such a deep lesson in humility and grace. He has more than enough humility, grace, and dignity, for an eight-year old.” Then there is the story of the little girl whose Leukemia was in remission and one day she believed it reappeared. As we learn, her parents were divorcing and Leukemia, despite all the pain and sorrow, was what kept the family together. Now faced with divorcing parents, the little girl felt that Leukemia was better than divorce. As Bowen points out, “sure Leukemia was frightening. Painful. But somehow, to Melanie, it seemed a small price to pay to keep her family.”     

Bowen’s well-rounded and moving narratives are for the most part introduced with deep philosophical reflections that set the stage for what is to ensue. If there is a criticism to be made, it is that most of us will be left wanting more. What ever happened to that little boy or girl that Bowen wrote about?

After reading the last of Bowen’s memoirs, I came to the conclusion that not only is he a talented essayist, but he is also just the sort of voice we should be listening to if we are seriously interested in improving our educational system as his essays provide us with the perfect opportunity to take heed.

No wonder he was awarded Teacher of the Year for Los Angeles County and I am quite certain that his memoirs will garner many well-deserved accolades. I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for a follow-up.

 Click Here To Purchase Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom

 Click Here To Read Norm's Interview With Chris Bowen